In this article Golf Australia’s Club Support Manager, Paul Vardy, interviews Golf Victoria’s Regional Development Officer, Mark Bamford, about his role.
Hi Mark, You have an extensive background in golf both as player and volunteer administrator (see background at the end of the transcript), when did you commence your employment at Golf Victoria and what does it entail?
I commenced in the role of Regional Development Officer for the Central Victoria District in February 2014. My role is primarily to increase participation within the sport of golf within my district of 93 clubs. The focus is on four areas:
• Implementing programs for club level such as My Golf, Play Golf Adult Clinics and Community Coaching
•Providing support to clubs with Business Planning, Member recruitment and retention, governance, funding, programs, information technology and volunteer strategies.
• Increasing the quantity and quality of coaches.
• Accurately recording local membership, participation and key financial data.
Mark, what is your approach to visiting clubs in your region?
My approach has been from the outset to form a relationship with a key member or members of the clubs committee or management. The long term view is so that Golf Victoria may engage with the club on the levels that they themselves choose and to ensure some form of continuity and consistency.
From the outset the approach has also been to “put on the table” some of the current services that Golf Victoria and Golf Australia are offering to clubs and to increase their awareness of the golf industry both in their immediate geographical area and that of the state and country.
It is on the secondary and subsequent visits that the information or data gathering will start to occur which assist us development officers (currently 3 in Victoria) in putting forward some more discriminant plans for growing the club and the game.
Who is it that you meet when you visit a club?
In the main it is the key representatives from the men’s and women’s sections of the club, if not all at a board meeting) and if the club has a manager or professional, the manager and the professional.
What is the reaction you often get when you first meet?
This depends on how active the clubs have been in dealing with Golf Victoria in the past, however all clubs have seen the initiative of Regional Development Officers as very positive. All clubs agree that to have a dedicated representative who can help them on many levels is an advantage they have not have had in the past.
How do establish relationships with the club representatives that you meet and why is this so important?
The relationship is nearly everything.
It is very important for us as Development Officers to gain the trust of the clubs and the officials so that we can be as open and honest as possible. Many clubs are in distress, not necessarily financially, but in having the participants in the game to make their club a strong and active part of the community in which they reside. To this end some straight talk about how both Golf Victoria and the member club operate is required.
What are people from regional and rural communities saying to you about their issues in the golf club? How are their issues unique?
Many of the issues such as participation and the lessening of rural township populations are quite generic, but the individualistic club solutions that emanate from the generic issues are unique to the general “make up” of the townships. For example, how strong is the football / netball club, are there any health services, schools and industry in the immediate area? These answers allow us to look within the community and we attempt to “change the language” of golf to allow the non-initiated a sense of let’s give golf a try.
How can Club Support help them?
Club support is a fantastic initiative from Golf Australia, a one stop shop of information and services that can be utilised by club committees, individual golfers and club managers to better understand the issues facing not only their own clubs, but their peer clubs as well.
Club support can help clubs understand issues such as good governance, committee structure, roles and responsibilities as well as game development, grant assistance, rules, handicapping, etc.
How have they found the Club Health Check Tool?
Clubs who have conducted the ASC health check have found not only the information to be valuable in a sense of “where to next” and “what are the issues facing our club” but they have found the process undertaken in answering the questions to be just as valuable in understanding themselves as a club and as the people involved.
How have they found the Club Support portal and its content?
Early days yet, but once again the clubs with the imagination and the propensity to “have a look” are finding it an easy to navigate tool, with many answers to their questions at their fingertips. A bit like the old yellow pages advertising, let your fingers do the walking………
What programs do you see clubs having the potential to incorporate into their offering?
Definitely My Golf the national junior program and one of the big winners is the Play Golf Adult program for women. (Previously Give Golf a Go) Both these programs allows us to have a good look into the demographics of the golf clubs catchment areas and target and promote not only the club and its offerings, but the development of new entrants to the game.
What other untapped potential do you see in clubs that you have visited?
There are so many potential possibilities for clubs. Our role is to think differently sometimes, take our golf hats off and look at some of the participation and membership issues through the eyes of those future golfers who don’t know that they want to play golf yet.
We’re looking at non-membership participation options at clubs, looking at group or district initiatives and having clubs look at their peers not as combatants but as like organisations that if banded together can come up with initiatives that serves them all.
A good example of this is the initiative of the six Bendigo based clubs who put out a golf passbook prior to Christmas, offering green fees and additional bonus to purchasers playing all six courses.
We’ve had ‘Come and Try’ days outside of the grounds of golf courses, at fairs and fetes and a country show.
Bringing golf to the people rather than asking people to come to the golf sounds like a modern day approach.
It is and it works well. In November, the Bendigo Clubs launched their Play Golf Week Promotion in the Bendigo Mall. We and the Clubs learned plenty from the experience and we hope to build on this for next year.
We even had a very successful ‘Come and Try’ day with SNAG equipment at a Bunnings BBQ.
What is Golf Victoria’s vision for club visits and the completion of the Club Health Check tool?
Our vision is to see every club in our designated area at least twice a year, to have every club complete the health check and to collect club data including the last three years financial data for all clubs in the next 12 months. We also have targets for My Golf Centres, Adult Development and Community Coaching in place.
Mark – Thanks for your time and best of luck for increasing golf participation in regional Victoria.
Background on Mark Bamford:
Mark’s career background is in banking and he has considerable experience in clubs and districts as a player and administrator. At the Elmore Golf Club he has been the Club President, Captain & Treasurer, for the Bendigo District as Secretary, Treasurer and Junior Coordinator and has been a former board member of Golf Victoria serving as Junior Chairman, a member of the Finance Committee and on various other committees over an eight year period. Mark is ideally placed to investigate the needs of clubs in regional Victoria.
Interview: December 2014